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America’s Small City Mayor: Understanding immigration in Todd County

The mayor of a small Minnesota town looks at the history of immigration in his region.

When first elected, one of our long serving council members told me not to worry if I should die while serving as Mayor. He said I would still have a job, because when the city was founded a hundred years ago there were Nordic ethnic groups settled right here in Clarissa.

The story went on to illustrate that the Norwegians, Swedes, and Germans did not get a long well at times during this period of integration. Apparently it got so exciting for a period of time that our city council forefathers purchased a plot of land in the local cemetery for the Mayor… just in case. The Mayor was, is, and always will be the mediator in a small city.

The saying here in Clarissa as I understand it is: “The plot was placed toward the center of the cemetery so the Mayor would continue to keep the Norwegians, Swedes, and Germans from killing each other again.”

Now I am sure there is folklore attached to the story, but true or not, immigration remains a top issue today.  It is the issue rural America continues to live and die by all around this country. 

Here in Clarissa it is no different as we have started to see a small influx of Hispanic immigrants.  To the south of us a very large Hispanic population has located into Todd County’s largest city: Long Prairie.  Estimates show the population increases are moving past ten percent today and could equal a quarter of the population in the coming years.

It is a huge demographic shift that will change our area in unique ways.  It is just like when the Norwegians, Swedes, and Germans settled here a hundred years ago.  So I am going to tackle this issue because it is important.  I will comment on Arizona’s controversial law, Federal policy, state rights, and hopefully bring in some real life examples from our own back yard.

It is a controversial issue, I know, but the best way to tackle an issue like this is head on.  Educating, talking through the sticking points, and hopefully coming to common ground.  It is my opinion this will be one of the defining issues that will shape Todd County in the coming quarter century.  How we address it now will determine how we win or lose as a local community.  If you know of a great story, interview, or article please pass it on as I hope to have a theme for the coming months.

This post was originally published by Nathan McLaughlin on America’s Small City Mayor.